McGee on how his art is influenced by Mission District culture
Barry McGee is known as part of the Mission School, a group of artists that emerged from San Francisco’s Mission District in the 1990s. It’s a style rooted in skateboard and surf culture, and influenced by street art. Barry McGee:
I bring in every little damn thing on the street—some stuff makes it, some doesn’t. Some things just get walked on for years and years and then, magically, it works in a frame. I like that process of a thing discarded, then picked up, and then intercepted, and then I do something on it, and then it goes into a fine collector’s home, probably. And, once again, it’s cherished.
The sad-eyed men shown in many of these frames recur in McGee’s artwork. The figures represent a kind of urban everyman, and recall characters from San Francisco’s homeless and transient populations.
The frame clusters of drawings are usually little scenarios that have developed, and that I’ve seen on the street, and then go home and just draw it or whatnot, then put into a frame. I always thought of them as similar to how a community of some sort might work. Some areas, people are getting along great, having a good time, then some have tension. So it’s loosely like a community.
SFX: Cue People Under the Stairs, “San Francisco Knights”
In some circles, McGee is better known as “Twist”, his graffiti tag since the 1980s.
Whenever I do stuff indoors, I always feel like I have to do 110 percent more stuff outdoors to keep my street credibility. It’s probably the audience I’m most worried about—the graffiti kids that are really doing stuff. And I’m always wary of how I sit in the eye of a twelve- or thirteen-year-old kid, like, what do they think of what I’ve done, how I fit in their scheme of things, or “Oh, that guy, he sold out.”
Please note that artwork locations are subject to change, and not all works are on view at all times. If you are planning a visit to SFMOMA to see a specific work of art, we suggest you contact us at email@example.com to confirm it will be on view.
Only a portion of SFMOMA's collection is currently online, and the information presented here is subject to revision. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to verify collection holdings and artwork information. If you are interested in receiving a high resolution image of an artwork for educational, scholarly, or publication purposes, please contact us at email@example.com.